MARQUETTE - The Department of Technology and Occupational Sciences at Northern Michigan University produces graduates of a different sort than is traditionally associated with four-year universities.
Its graduates fix cars, provide electricity, construct buildings and maintain appliances everyone needs in the daily life of modern society.
"When your furnace dies in the middle of February on a Saturday, it's our graduates who are going to come and get it running," said department head Daryl Kobie. "When your vehicle stops and you have no idea what to do, it's our graduates that will fix it."
From left, Sammy Bergdahl, an advanced student in the cosmetology program at Northern Michigan University, watches as instructor Michelle Hendrickson offers tips on how best to cut senior psychology student Katie Butzen’s hair inside the Jacobetti Center’s cosmetology lab on Tuesday. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Welding instructor Yvonne LeMire demonstrates techniques to her students inside the center’s welding lab. The welding certificate is just one of many programs offered in the university’s Technology and Occupational Sciences Department. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
The department offers its students a wide variety of certifications and degrees to choose from, ranging from one-year programs all the way up to full Bachelor's degrees.
"Our department is very diverse," Kobie said.
Programs offered include aviation maintenance, industrial maintenance and welding, construction management, electrical line technician, cosmetology, hospitality and automobile service, to name a few.
Kobie said the fastest growing program in the department is welding, which offers its students a two-year certification that allows them to enter a field that's in high demand across the state.
"We just developed the welding certificate and implemented it two years ago ... We went from 0 to 66 (students) in two years," Kobie said. "Welder is a very in-demand occupation at the moment."
Yvonne LeMire, a full-time welding instructor at Northern, said the program not only provides a way for its students to receive the training needed to pass the welding certification test, it also offers students in other departments - such as art and design - a chance to boost their resumes with extra skill sets.
As a former Northern student, LeMire studied sculpture and was required to take a welding course to earn her degree. She said the crossover between the equipment used in NMU's Art and Design Department - such as 3-D imaging for design- and the practical application of those designs in the welding lab provides a mutually beneficial relationship between departments.
The welding program is also designed to allow students to receive as much or as little training as they need to pass the state certification test.
"These programs ladder into each other," LeMire said. "These credits apply in industrial maintenance. Those credits then ladder into industrial technology. All of those credits count."
Kobie said the cosmetology program is also a popular one at the university, with many students graduating and choosing to stay in the area.
"Just about every shop in Marquette has at least one graduate as an employee and some of the shops are owned by graduates," Kobie said.
Sammy Bergdahl, an advanced student in the cosmetology program, said she's planning on sticking around the area after earning her certification.
Cosmetology students, like most of the students inside the Technology and Occupational Sciences Department, spend much of their time practicing their skills in a lab setting. The cosmetology lab inside the Jacobetti Center offers most of the same services a standard salon would, except it's students offering the services - with the supervision of their instructors.
Bergdahl said she was inspired to enter the cosmetology program by one of its instructors, Michelle Hendrickson, who also owns Hair Etcetera in Harvey.
"I've known her since I was little," Bergdahl said. "I always admired what she did and I wanted to be like her.
"It's been a lot harder (going through the program) than I thought it would be," she added. "But it's been a good challenge."
From welders to beauticians, Kobie said his department is a good stop for anyone looking for a job that doesn't usually involve sitting behind a desk.
"We put people out into society that are performing tasks and providing services that people want and need," Kobie said. "Employers like our graduates and employees get good jobs and society receives the services that they're able to perform."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.